Manikandan-Sri Gouri Priya: Comparisons with Arjun Reddy are unfounded

Actor Manikandan and Sri Gouri Priya speak about their upcoming film Lover, its outlook on contemporary relationships, and more…
Manikandan-Sri Gouri Priya: Comparisons with Arjun Reddy are unfounded

Tales of love pervade all of storytelling. Even though love is a primal emotion, expressions of love evolve and differ across time. And so, romantic dramas reflect society's outlook on love, romance, and relationships around the time they are made. Perhaps, Prabhuram Vyas, with his directorial debut, Lover, is intent on doing just that. Manikandan, who plays the lead in the film, agrees with this assessment. “Yes, Lover is very much a contemporary relationship drama. We tried capturing how people handle their relationships these days and how the modern youth are impulsive with their decision making.” He further adds that despite the premise, the film is not just about romance and begins to unravel the subtext. “Lover also talks about how a genuine friendship nudges someone towards better decisions and how someone’s interactions with the outside world and their relationships are affected if they come from a dysfunctional family.” Actor Sri Gouri Priya, who plays the female lead, adds to Manikandan’s answer, “This is an honest film, it faithfully captures today’s relationships, warts and all. It also talks about how people have this need to latch on to an identity.”

No matter the intention, almost an overwhelming number of romance dramas are seen through the lens of the male protagonist and consequently, take his side. However, Manikandan reassures us that this is not the case with Lover. “That is one of the first things I liked about the film. It does not show focussed empathy on any one particular character. You cannot say a character is either completely right or completely wrong. The film does not try to tell you this is how you should be in order to have a healthy relationship.” He then takes Kanna Ravi’s character Madhan to elucidate his point. Madhan is best friends with Divya (Sri Gouri), which ends up inflaming her boyfriend Arun’s (Manikandan) possessiveness. “Arun and Madhan are not that different. Arun might have been Madhan in someone else’s life and Madhan might have gone through what Arun is going through here but the intensity might vary and how they react to these situations might vary. The film does not try to take sides because this is a universal experience that everybody goes through.” While the film might not take sides, Manikandan reflects upon the stereotypical portrayal of the heroine’s male best friend or ‘bestie’, as the character trope is most popularly known. “This generalization is due to this dangerous trend in our society that vilifies any friendship between a man and a woman. A lot of my amazing friends are women and I actually gave them the script and asked if they had any issues with the story or its portrayal of Divya.”

When Manikandan’s question to his friends is bounced off to Sri Gouri Priya, she says, “I found Divya to be a realistic character and moreover, I shaped the character myself during workshops during which I understood her more.” On shaping the character, Gouri adds, “There is a scene where Arun keeps rubbing his eyes and Divya pushes his hand away because she doesn’t like it. Small character quirks like this were not written in the script. It is only during the workshops we realised that our characters would have micro-triggers like this.” Manikandan interjects, “And Gouri is amazing to work with because she is not a greedy actor. There is a tense birthday party scene between myself, Gouri, and Kanna Ravi, where she has to stand awkwardly while Kanna and I exchange lines. She could have stood casually since she didn’t have any dialogues but the fact that she stood there all stiff somehow raised the tension in the room and helped our performances.”

Judging by the promotional videos, the film seems to have several of these aforementioned tense scenes. Manikandan plays an angry, volatile, and possessive boyfriend who indulges in heavy drinking and verbally lashes out at his girlfriend. On the inevitable comparisons to other films that revolve around an angry boyfriend, Manikandan says, “Comparisons with films like Arjun Reddy are unfounded and are sure to fade away once the film releases because Arun is different. Even though you might hate him in portions of the film, towards the end you will understand that he is not such a reprehensible character. You see him evolve as a person and how love changes him, as it changes all of us.”

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